I was finally on the plane that was headed for Germany!! Ever since Mark got the unofficial word in late July that the U.S. Army was moving us overseas, I was ecstatic and the day for me couldn’t come fast enough. I had to slog through one last semester of nursing school and over four more months of separation from Mark. I had to coordinate all the bits and pieces that go into moving overseas with the military, mostly by myself. I had to say goodbye to my parents, America, and everything that was familiar to me. And finally, I had to get myself, Zoey, and our luggage to the BWI airport (thankfully with some help).
The exhaustion at the airport was real, and it seemed that everyone else was feeling it too. I looked across the waiting area to a couple who had two little girls. The husband was lying on the ground, using a backpack as a pillow, trying to sleep. The girls were spread out on the seats, and the wife was slouching in her seat, covered by a large blanket, staring into space. I didn’t have kids but I totally understood what she was feeling at that moment. They were probably PCSing to Germany too. Despite the exhaustion, I felt an unspoken camaraderie with all these military folks. We were experiencing something that most Americans will never get to have: moving to a foreign country!
Soon, my butt was in my seat, 4D on the Patriot Express, operated by OAI (Omni Air International). It was at the front of the plane, in the middle area on the left aisle. My rolling carry-on was under the seat, and my violin and PCS binder were in the overhead compartment. It was a huge plane and a packed flight! A flight attendant delivered this card to me, which put my mind at ease:
Hurry Up and Wait
The flight was supposed to leave at 2:00 AM but was delayed till probably 2:45. I fell asleep a little before takeoff, despite my prior resolution of staying awake most of the flight so I could adjust to Germany time more quickly. I ended up sleeping for about five hours of the almost seven hour flight! We seemed to have a lot of turbulence, which would slightly wake me up. Every time, I’d imagine Zoey in cargo: dark, alone in her cage, getting jostled about. Poor thing! She probably didn’t know what to think.
I woke up right before they were serving lunch, but unfortunately they didn’t have any gluten-free options. I ate some yogurt I’d bought in the airport, and requested some hot water for my ginger tea bag. I was almost too excited and stressed to eat! Before I knew it, we were on the descent and were wheels down in Deutschland, at Ramstein Air Base!!!
Great Experience on the Patriot Express
My experience on the Patriot Express was a very good one. The stewards were excellent and gave us clear instructions on what would happen after deplaning. There was nothing fancy about the aircraft, but it got us safely to our destination so that’s really all that matters! I gathered my carry-on luggage, made sure my military ID and passport were handy, and filed off the plane. I was stepping onto German soil now!!
Customs was a breeze. Their system seemed to be acting up, so the customs guard checked my ID and passport and sent me on my way. A small USO was in the baggage claim area, which meant free Wifi! It wasn’t too great, but enough so that I could send a message to my family saying that I had landed. I looked eagerly around for Mark. Since the baggage claim area at Ramstein is a secured area, he waited outside. But we saw each other and waved!
Reunited At Last!
I was anxious to see Zoey too. As they brought out the dogs, some barked, but Zoey lay quietly in her crate, looking so worriedly at everyone. It seemed like she was thinking, “Nope, not my mom. Not my mom either. Nope, that’s not her either” as she looked at each person waiting. It was actually a bit comical, so I let her worry for a minute and then went over to her. I didn’t have to wait too long for my luggage, so I loaded it up and was on my way! (Note to others PCSing to Germany with pets: I was never instructed to see a veterinarian that is supposed to be there to check the dogs’ papers. I have heard that sometimes he/she is not even there. However, you STILL need to get all the requirements done! You don’t want to be “that person.”)
Finally the three of us were reunited!! Mark and I exchanged a quick hug and kiss, and then hurried out to the car. (It was a small area so there wasn’t time to linger.) We loaded up the pre-owned station wagon he had bought in October, I buckled Zoey into the back seat (adhering to German law), and we were on our way to Wiesbaden!!! It was surreal. This was real life! We were living in Germany!
Going Home = Germany
Despite having slept five hours on the plane, I was exhausted that night and fell asleep before 10pm, which is highly unusual for me. I didn’t anticipate how heavily jet lag would hit me, but I’ll save that for another post. The next day would be a busy one, doing in-processing and starting to get oriented to my new home.
Thus began our new life in Germany together! It was quite a process, and has been sometimes rough adjusting, but it is 100% worth it in my opinion. It is a blessing to be here and I can’t wait to experience many adventures over the next three years! I’m also looking forward to sharing them with all of you. I hope my stories inspire you to create your own adventures and experience the world! It has so much to offer.